Common Travel Scams (And How To Avoid Them!)

Heading overseas for a conference? Spending your summer semester abroad? Or maybe you’re turning a week long business trip into a bleisure trip for the whole family. Regardless of your destination or the purpose of your visit, there’s always a chance you could find yourself a target of local crime. Here’s a list of some of the most well-known travel scams travelers could face and how to prevent them from happening to you during your next trip.

Scam Alert Sign

Lost Items: One of the most common scams is for strangers to approach foreigners and ask if they have dropped something. A stranger will find a ring or piece of jewelry “on the ground” and ask if it is yours. When you disagree, they will insist and finally offer you the ring because it will make a nice gift or because it will look nice on you. Do not accept the ring or anything you are offered. If you do accept, the scammers will likely beg you for money. Additionally, they may have an accomplice steal your wallet while you’re distracted by the person in front of you.

Friendship Bracelet: Another popular trick in crowded tourist areas is for a stranger to take your arm and put a string around your wrist. Although you may politely decline, typically they will not free your wrist and will continue on until the bracelet is complete. After, they will demand you pay whatever they feel the bracelet is worth. It’s unlikely these vendors will become violent, but you may want to offer them a few Euros and insist they take the bracelet back. To avoid getting caught in this situation, walk with your hands in your pockets and be aware of your surroundings.

“Helpful” Strangers: It would be wonderful if everyone who offered to help you truly intended to, but when traveling in a foreign country, it’s important to remember that you’re a target. Be on the lookout for strangers who offer to show you how to use a foreign ATM as they could be waiting to steal your pin. If someone says they just witnessed a pickpocketing and asks you to put your wallet and valuables in a safe place, be cautious. They may be watching where you have your valuables so they can pick your pocket at a later time.

Random Accidents: A woman may throw a baby, often a doll, at an unsuspecting tourist and yell, “hold this!” While the tourist is flustered and trying to process what just happened, the woman or an accomplice will go through the victim’s belongings and grab whatever they can.  If someone bumps into you, spills something on you, drops something, or falls down – be careful. Many times, these types of accidents are staged by thieves to take advantage of unsuspecting visitors. If you suspect that someone is seriously hurt or in need of your help, place a firm grasp on your purse or wallet before you carefully move closer.

Personal Safety Reminders:

  • Invest in a money belt or wallet to store your credit cards and cash
  • Know where your valuables are at all times
  • Keep your bag between your feet when sitting or loop your bag through a chair leg
  • Wrap a few rubber bands around your wallet so it’s more difficult to remove from your pocket
  • Store your wallet in your front pocket
  • Women should use cross body bags and keep a firm grip on their purse at all times
  • Make sure zippers and buttons are secure on bags and backpacks
  • Always keep your passport stored in a safe at your hotel

Often times, travel safety comes down to a little planning and some good old-fashioned common sense. Be sure to check out our personal safety tips before you leave for your trip; and of course, On Call members can call us anytime they feel their personal safety has been compromised while traveling.

Safe Travels!